Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A Constructive Education Reformer

Randi Weingarten spoke to the Democratic National Convention last night.

The speech may have been televised by C-Span but I would rather stick a pencil in my eye and twirl it counterclockwise than voluntarily subject myself to either the sights or (gads!) the sounds of Dear Leader Weingarten giving a speech, so I managed to miss it.

Frankly every time she opens her mouth to issue some self-serving jive about education or how swell a labor leader she herself is, I always think about that moment in the Marx Brothers' movie A Night At The Opera when the mayor of New York is about to give a speech and Groucho grabs the paper, tears it up, summarizes the speech in a total of 5 seconds and ends by saying, "The Mayor's going to give another speech later at City Hall. We can tear that speech up when we get there."


But I know that Ms. Weingarten, as former Secretary of Education Rod Paige's favorite labor leader and as the teachers' union leader who has sold New York public school teachers out on a whole host off issues from merit pay to charter schools to an extended school year to a sixth class to grievance and seniority right losses, is a Washington power broker who had to be given a spot to speak at the convention.

Let's face it, if you list all the givebacks and concessions Ms. Weingarten has given Mayor Moneybags and Jolly Joel Klein over the years, you can see just how successful she has been working for the interests of Tweed over the interests of the working teachers who pay her salary and the expense account she is no doubt putting the cost of the Denver trip onto.

I just wish MSNBC would have left Ms. Weingarten's visage out of the video of Ted Kennedy's stirring speech to the convention.

Here I was, feeling all sentimental and sad about the passing of the torch from the Liberal Lion of the Senate to Barack Obama and suddenly I'm hit 50 seconds in by the sight of a cheering Weingarten looking slightly buzzed on either power or white wine spritzers grinning like she's just been named Secretary of Labor by President Hillary Clinton.

Really ruined the moment for me. Yeah, I know she worked with Teddy over the years on education issues and NCLB and all that, but as a real working NYC public school teacher, I'd rather not be reminded of Ms. Weingarten's "achievements."

The ironic thing is that while Ms. Weingarten is partying at the convention, real working teachers are going back to school this week because Ms. Weingarten and the rest of the UFT leadership agreed to make the already long NYC public school year even longer by adding two days of "professional development" before Labor Day.

So while all day Thursday Ms. Weingarten will be enjoying the sights of Denver anticipating Al Gore's introduction of the candidate and Obama's nomination speech Thursday night, real working NYC teachers will have endured 6 hours and 50 minutes of professional development that will be so useless and boring that you'll wish Groucho Marx was still alive so he could tear the damned PD agendas up and say "We can tear the next PD agenda up when we get to it..."

Unfortunately Groucho is long gone, but Ms. Weingarten is here with us to stay.

I can't help but wonder what concessions Ms. Weingarten and the rest of the Weingartenistas at UFT headquarters will devise for us in the next contract.

Loss of tenure? Paying for health care (remember the "cost containment initiatives" clause from the last contract?) Three more days of school in August? 10 more minutes added to the school day? Canning of all the ATR's in the ATR pool?

Gee, I bet all of those concessions will be on the table - just the way loss of seniority rights, loss of grievance rights, loss of Circular 6R rights, and the addition of a sixth class were on the table back in 2005.

Except that Ms. Weingarten doesn't call those things concessions - she calls them helping "to reform education in constructive ways."

Well, I guess one person's concessions are another person's "reforms."

At any rate, if you're watching the TV the next few days after sitting through 6 hours and 50 minutes of PD and you see Ms. Weingarten at the convention, just remember, you're part of the "constructive education reform" that helped make her a Washington power broker in the first place and gets her invited to shindigs like the DNC party.

Be proud that you, as a real working NYC public school teacher, have helped to further Ms. Weingarten's career as a "Constructive Education Reformer" and look forward to giving up even more concessions, er, reforms in the next contract or two.
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